Understanding how health care has advanced and how it can continue to improve was the message speakers delivered during the 2016 Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury summit Tuesday.
Navy Rear Adm. (Dr.) Colin Chinn, director of Research, Development and Acquisition, Defense Health Agency, emphasized how research and development help advance treatment and care in the Military Health System. Chinn said his team is focused on translating research into either medical product or medical knowledge.
“We are learning more and more each day about PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] and TBI [traumatic brain injury],” Chinn said to 1,645 live and virtual conference registrants. “That not only benefits our wounded warriors, but also the entire American public.”
Throughout Tuesday’s 10 sessions, presenters showed how military medical care has advanced and how it continues to evolve. Among the highlights:
PTSD Care after Vietnam. Although a higher percentage of female veterans in Vietnam reported PTSD than men, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initially offered little in the way of care or resources, said Dr. Kathryn Magruder of the Medical University of South Carolina. That decision reflected medical understanding at the time.
“Female veterans of the Vietnam War were not offered help for PTSD from the VA because the assumption was that those mental health issues stemmed from being directly involved in combat,” Magruder said.
Today, providers have a far deeper understanding of the many causes of PTSD. However, there is need for continuing research on the effects of PTSD on Vietnam veterans as they make up the highest number of health service users at the VA, she said.
Acupuncture for Substance Abuse. As more patients request access to complementary and integrative medicine, a researcher from the Rand Corp. reviewed one approach: acupuncture.
“It is important to investigate [acupuncture] because patients are increasingly requesting or turning to these types of alternative medicine interventions, particularly when other treatments are not working,” said Sean Grant, associate behavioral and social scientist for Rand Corp.
Effectiveness of Reporting Sexual Assault in the Military. The Defense Department defines secondary victimization as the indirect re-traumatization of the victim through the responses of individuals and institution to the victim. Dr. Michael Bowen, psychiatric resident at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, is currently conducting a study to look at secondary victimization of active-duty sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors. The study is still ongoing, but results show that patient recovery from sexual assault is affected by the way health care providers handle the process of reporting. Research shows that those who feel judged or disbelieved by their doctors and caregivers when they report a traumatic attack may not recover well. Bowen stressed the importance of the reporting process and a supportive environment.
Full presentations are available on the DCoE Summit website.